Degree course: 
Corso di Second cycle degree in BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES
Academic year when starting the degree: 
Academic year in which the course will be held: 
Course type: 
Compulsory subjects, characteristic of the class
First Semester
Standard lectures hours: 
Detail of lecture’s hours: 
Lesson (40 hours), Laboratory (24 hours)

To follow this course the student must have a good understanding of the basic mechanisms underlying the flow of genetic information from gene to protein and the main techniques of molecular biology and genetic engineering. Moreover, the student must be able to understand English and be capable of reading scientific publications used as educational material.

Final Examination: 

During the final oral exam of approximately 30 minutes the knowledge of the treated topics will be assessed. The examination starts with questions regarding the topics of the course and assessing the common knowledge of the regulation of eukaryotic gene expression and epigenetics with a focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms and techniques useful for their studies. The second part of the exam will test the student’s ability to use the techniques of modern molecular biology to propose properly designed experiments aimed at addressing a specific problem inherent to the course. Maximum marks (28-30 and honours) will be given only to students that demonstrate the capacity of integrating the different molecular mechanisms and experimental approaches.

Voto Finale

The course aims at providing the basic knowledge regarding the principles and the molecular mechanisms of gene expression regulation in eukaryotic cells considering the importance of chromatin structure, epigenetic mechanisms and the role played by non-coding RNAs. The topics treated in the program are selected to provide students with a general knowledge and to highlight their importance in translational research applied to human health with focus on the fields of neurobiology and oncology. Thanks to the practical part of the course, the student will be capable of working in a group and of evaluating and interpreting experimental data.

At the end of the course, the student will be capable of:
- describing the principles of the molecular mechanisms of epigenetics, regulation of gene expression, and chromatin structure;
- explaining the consequences of alterations of these mechanisms for human health;
- critically evaluating scientific literature;
- defining experimental strategies to address questions in these topics.

The lectures will cover the following arguments:
• Introduction to the concept of epigenetics and some examples of epigenetic regulation in the animal world. A review of the transcriptional regulation in eukaryotes and some of the commonly used techniques of molecular biology.
• Chromatin as a regulator of gene expression; chromatin structure; the nucleosome; ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complexes; post-translational modifications of histones and the associated writers and readers; the histone code; pathologies associated with defects in chromatin structure.
• DNA methylation as an epigenetic mechanism: distribution in different organisms; techniques for its analysis; enzymes involved in specifying the pattern of DNA methylation in mammals; the role of DNA methylation and experimental approaches to understand its functions; the readers of DNA methylation and their mode of action; pathologies associated with defects in DNA methylation. Hydroxymethylcytosine as a novel epigenetic signal.
• Non-coding RNAs as novel regulators of gene expression. Different classes of non-coding RNAs and their biosynthesis; their involvement in regulating gene expression; associated pathologies.
• Imprinting.
• X-inactivation.
All arguments will include an explanation of different experimental approaches aimed at demonstrating the current evidence. The students will thus review the main molecular biology techniques used in modern laboratories. Special emphasis will be given to the concept of proper controls allowing a correct interpretation of the experiments.

24 hours of laboratory (12 hours only for Basic & Applied Biomedical Sciences students) will be used to perform and analyse experiments regarding chromatin accessibility and real-time PCR and other subjects treated in the course.

Pdfs of the lectures will be given to the students during the course together with references of scientific reviews and articles treating the topics of the course.


The course consists of 40 hours of lectures and a practical part in the laboratory of 24 hours (12 for Basic & Applied Biomedical Science students).
The lectures will be based on PowerPoint presentations with the additional use of movies to favour the comprehension. Selected figures from scientific literature will be used to discuss specific examples of the treated topics. The students will be urged to participate in active discussions throughout the course.
For the laboratory part the student must have a lab-coat.

The teacher is available for appointments via mail: c.kilstrup-nielsen@uninsubria.it